Right off, we can think of four favorite places in the Caribbean, for four different reasons. Going from west to east, the first is Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles. We have made six visits, each one lasting at least a month. The attraction is SCUBA diving. It is the best, easiest, and most hassle free place for boaters who want to dive, and the diving is superb. It would also be a good place to learn to dive.
About 30 miles east of Bonaire are Las Aves, a small group of islands and reefs belonging to Venezuela, but about 100 miles off the coast. Actually, there are two groups of islands about fifteen miles apart, Sotavento (leeward) and Barlovento (windward). The attraction here is solitude. There is a small Coast Guard station in Sotavento and absolutely nothing in Barlovento. Many people visit to hunt, although the hunting is not as good as it used to be. Anyone who can free dive deep enough can still find some nice size grouper. There is a really large nesting area in some tall mangroves at Barlovento where the boobies put on quite a show each morning and evening. In both groups, one can eyeball one's way out behind the reef and find a nice sandy spot to anchor where you will be completely alone to swim, hunt, or just relax.
Between Las Aves and Trinidad, there is the coast of Venezuela, with many interesting places to visit. However, we have been avoiding the mainland of Venezuela for the past few years due to an increase in crime against boaters. The current political upheaval is not helping matters any. On our most recent visit, we stopped at Porlamar, Isla Margarita, to shop and to buy a dinghy. We paid $1500 for an AB RIB, which sells in the U. S. for $2500.
Boaters visit Trinidad by the hundreds to get work done on their boats and to participate in non-boating activities. There is lot's to do ashore, everything from horse racing to bird watching, and the grocery shopping is great - a wide variety of quality goods at excellent prices. We are back in the Virgin Islands by Christmas so we miss out on what must be one of the most exciting attractions - Trinidad's world famous carnival. Trinidad is the birthplace of steel pan music and we have been there for international classical pan competition events which were well worth the visit.
Every island in the chain going north from Trinidad has something to offer. Our favorite is Martinique. The island itself is beautiful and it gives us a chance to practise our French while shopping for French grocery items and wines at very reasonable prices. The town of St. Pierre is worth a visit. It was the Paris of the Caribbean until it was destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Pele almost a hundred years ago. There was one survivor and he was in jail.
For visiting the Virgin Islands and the Leeward Islands, we would suggest doing it in the spring or early summer. At this point the tourists and bareboaters are thinning out and the weather is better.
There's more to tell but this is already too long. We would be happy to answer individual questions.
Gil and Judy Steinfort